Reusable water bottle count skyrockets, information about recycling spreads

Iris Hernandez

t is a race against time. Seniors Jack Massey and Jake Swift chug reusable bottles full of water from the senior hall refill station on Nov. 17. Cheers erupt as the bottles are empty and ready to be refilled again. The upper school is now a few bottles closer to getting a free dress day.

The Environmental Awareness Club announced to the upper school that if the water bottle refill station numbers in the senior hallway are raised from 22885 to 23371 refills by Nov. 18 the upper school would receive a free dress day. The free dress day took place on Dec. 5.

“I think it will encourage people to be environmentally conscious because it shows how easy it is to reuse a water bottle instead of single-use,” senior and member of the EAC Rohan Schlehuber said. “It also lets people see how easy it is to save 1500 plastic water bottles in half a month. I think it is important to care about these things because it helps create a better environment for us to live in in the future. ”

Free dress days are seen as a hot commodity by students. So, many took this challenge seriously and rose to the challenge.

“I believe our community needs to be more centered around reusability and environmental awareness, and the refill challenge was a great way to achieve this,” Swift said. “It’s also nice staying hydrated and getting a free dress day. I made sure everyone in the senior hall drank water.  I also drank four gallons of water a day to break our goal.”

But the EAC does not care only about water, they have plans to involve the lower school as well to decrease art supplies waste.

“The lower school marker drive we are working on is for lower schoolers to donate used markers to be then sent to Crayola to be properly recycled and refilled if possible,” Schlehuber said. “As well, we want to continue to promote upper and lower school connections and teach younger kids about the environment.”

 The EAC has been running for 40 years at ESD. Former English teacher Greg Randall, who retired last year, was the EAC’s original sponsor. Upper school history teacher Marc Salz volunteered to take over Randall.

“I really believe in trying to leave a better planet than was [once] there,” Salz said. “I don’t pick up every piece of trash on campus, but if you tracked me all day you would see me bend over and pick up pieces of trash that aren’t mine.”

For some, like Salz, recycling is important and allows them to opt-out of creating more waste that will eventually harm the environment. However, some people have noticed that the recycling on campus has not been well separated from normal waste.

“Part of the problem is some of the students are not well educated or not interested in differentiating [the recycling],” Salz said. “And if you provide bad recycling, it destroys the whole recycling load.”

ESD recycles cardboard, plastics and paper. The recycling program has been in operation since the 1980s. The

“Judging on the amount of recycling we have picked up daily, I would probably agree that ESD has a good awareness of recycling,” Director of Facilities Jay Michael said. “But often, contamination will cause the school to pay more in fines than in years past. It would be good to remind everyone of what is and is not recyclable.”

Michael said that the school has been fined by Republic Services, a solid waste collection company, when the recycling is contaminated. The fine is usually 30 percent of the normal monthly recycling cost. When Michael’s staff identifies contaminated recycle bags, they place them in the trash dumpster to avoid the monetary fine.

“We have found food, drinks, foam board and styrofoam in the recycle bins,” Michael said.  “Those are typical examples of contamination.”

 Recycling and trash collected at ESD are not separated prior to it going to either the landfill or recycling facility. It is important, then, to separate before it is picked up by the facilities staff.  Yet, this is a very common issue; according to, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one in four recycling items has been contaminated.

“We have been fined by Republic Services, when contamination takes place,” Michael said. “Often, if my staff identifies contaminated recycle bags, we place them in the trash dumpster to avoid the monetary fine. We have found food, drinks, foam board and styrofoam in the recycle bins.”

Thirty-two percent of Americans recycle according to the EPA. According to a poll taken on Dec 5, 64  ESD community members recycle.

“I recycle because personally I believe that we have the power to help our environment,” Sophmore Aubrey Fomin said. “I am contributing to the effort to keep our Earth healthy. I believe it is so important to take care of our planet, and by recycling I can help to do that.”

Recycling has a history

The first known humans to recycle were the Japanese in the ninth Century. They began to recycle when they started to make paper, so, in reality, paper and recycling  have always gone hand in hand.

Today most people have the convenience of supermarkets, easy transportation, and credit cards. But in the 1800’s, people did not have these things, making reusing or saving materials much more common and practical.

The popularity of recycling has gone up and down throughout the years. In the early 19th century, many cities separated trash from reusable materials and sold it to companies. However, once the 1920s rolled around, this trend died down. There was no separation from trash and recyclables. Recycling picked up again around the second world war when people were encouraged to recycle paper, cloth and rubber. And when the war ended, so did recycling. It then gained traction once again in the 1960s when people first began to see recycling as an aid to the environment, yet most households sent their waste to landfills. President Lyndon B. Johnson passed legislation during this time to preserve the environment.

Recycling in the past was much different than the current way we recycle, which originated during the 1970s. People across the country became concerned about the trash and recyclable materials that littered the landscape. This mass effort to recycle was a direct response to the creation and high consumption of single use products. Corporations became involved and released pro-recycling ads. Then in 1971, Oregon became the first state to pass a  beverage container deposit law, which increased the cost for bottles by five or 10 cents, in order to incentivize returns. The money was refunded when recycled. Curbside recycling began a decade later in Woodbury, New Jersey. It soon spread across the country.

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